To play or not to play
BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro (The Freeman) - March 8, 2020 - 12:00am

This is a tough one. There is no clear right or wrong answer, and the sports world is caught flat-footed and groping to find the right defense against this brand new offense called COVID-19. We’ve never seen this in any playbook or have scouted this in any game played anywhere. So how does one defend this? Use a zone defense? Go man-to-man? Go with a full-court defense? One thing for sure is that this has turned many things upside down like a thief in the night catching all of us deep asleep and for now, we still don’t have the answers.

We have already seen how the tourism business and all its related components have been terribly affected. The hospitality industry has been hit hard with all the cancellations of many travel-related events: seminars, conferences, meetings and the ordinary vacation. Flights have been cancelled. Hotel reservations are being cancelled or moved to another date. And with fake news being spread, things aren’t turning out for the better.

For us in sports, how are we reacting? The biggest question is if the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the biggest event in four years, will go on. From a sports fan’s viewpoint, I would dread the thought of an Olympiad being cancelled. What are the chances that the COVID-19 virus will find its way to the fans, participants and all those involved with the Olympics? Do we have reliable (not fake) studies that could give us a good idea? Are there ways to prevent the virus from spreading? Is that vaccine coming out anytime soon?

In the country, the biggest sports events that draw large crowds were momentarily put on hold, but are now back on again. The UAAP volleyball tournament has started, along with UAAP football and the resumption of high school basketball. The venues for this will be the Mall of Asai Arena, Smart Araneta Coliseum and the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan. There are also talks that some games will be played at the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA). The PBA opens its 45th season today with its Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The conference will also have games played at the venues mentioned earlier aside from the usual out-of-town venues.

We bring up the concern of venues and crowds as this is where chances are higher for the COVID-19 virus to do what it does best. One of the more logical actions to take are to minimize the drawing of extra-ordinary large crowds and/or cramping spectators in a small venue. Here’s the official advisory issued by the Department of Health last month, “the DOH strongly urges the public to avoid attending, participating in, and organizing events that draw a number of attendees. The DOH  likewise recommends the cancellation of such planned big events or mass gatherings until further notice.”

The CVIRAA opens on March 22 in Dumaguete and I hope they seriously consider doing away with its traditional opening ceremony. It’s the only activity of the CVIRAA that draws larger than normal crowds, ergo, put this on hold. Crowds at the games per se aren’t extra-ordinarily large and these venues are also spread across Dumaguete. The crowd here is composed of a mix of family / relatives of players, athletes and supporters. The only game that drew a large crowd at CVIRAA 2019 was the championship game of boys high school basketball, and this was because this was played at a high school’s multi-purpose gym and not the bigger Macias Sports Complex. The outdoor venues for popular events such as football, athletics and swimming are big enough to spread its spectators around the bleachers next to the playing area or pitch. With the summer coming up, summer tournaments, sports camps and clinics are the norm. Although these don’t draw large crowds, precaution is still needed. Clinics should also include lessons on COVID-19 awareness and how to deal with it.

One of the best ways to counter COVID-19 are day-to-day routines that we should all follow and promote. These are as simple as thorough washing of hands, having hand sanitizers available at all times, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, wearing a face mask if having symptoms of respiratory concerns, cooking meat and eggs well, avoiding contact with wild and farm animals, and seeing a doctor when not feeling well. Avoid the shaking of hands and do fist bumps instead. Making a bow is also recommended, the same way that the Japanese do it reverently. Cool, di ba? If you can, open doors in public places with a closed fist or your hips. Don’t grasp at the door knob with your hands (if possible).

Life goes on. Let’s not panic, over-react and be vigilant against COVID-19. And most importantly, let’s all PUSH: “Pray Until Something Happens.” The Oratio Imperata is prayed at all masses and let’s all unite with this aside from all forms of prayers that we can offer up.

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